What video games can teach you about your career — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

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I am not a big player of video games, but my teenage son has introduced me to a few in the last several years. Even if I don’t play the games themselves, I do often watch videos of the game play to stay informed of the state of the art and also to enjoy the stories. Although video games are often dismissed as time-wasters and corrupters of youth (and adults), I find that there are a number of career lessons that can be gained from them. Like everything in your life — your family, your hobbies, the books you read — videogames can yield some interesting lessons if you take the time to think beyond the actual gameplay itself.

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The first night is always the hardest

In nearly every video game, regardless of genre, the first night, the first level, the first enemy is always the hardest. The same could be said for your career. You have a lot to learn in your first job — who to follow, what to learn, what to do — and video games teach us this each time. When I first took up playing Minecraft, one of the few video games I play — I was having so much trouble with my first night that my son recommended “How to survive your first night in Minecraft”, a video series by Paul Soares, Jr. It helped immensely and allowed me to continue in the game without dying too often. You, too, need to find your guides to get you through your “first nights” in your career. Seek out people, books, blogs and videos that allow you to improve your career every day. I can guarantee that these guides are out there, even if you need to spend some time looking. Look to your best co-workers for advice and guidance and use your less than stellar, co-workers are bad examples from whom you can still learn some important lessons. All of these sources can help you get through each “first night” you experience in your career — and there will be many of them — so find your guides, learn early, learn well, learn quickly.

Ominous Music Portends Danger

Wouldn’t it be great if our lives and careers came with an ominous soundtrack whenever danger was near? Play any game, like Skyrim or Bioshock Infinite, and you know when danger is near. The ominous music rolls in and you immediately start looking for enemies. I would pay a lot of money to have this in my own life, for sure, and I am betting you would, too. That said, there is something similar in the real world. We can often sense red flags in our lives and careers, if we only took the time to notice it. Instead, we ignore the signs — the ominous music — and walk directly into danger without the slightest notice.

Are your being excluded from meetings? Are executives departing your company with vague or lame excuses? Are support complaints rolling in faster than you can deal with them? The red flags might be different from industry to industry and office to office, but they are there, if you only listen. If you wouldn’t ignore the “danger theme” when climbing to the “Throat of World” in Tamriel, don’t ignore the ominous “music” that appears in your own work and life.

Your actions have quick and definite consequences

Many games today have both good and bad endings and your in-game actions have direct effect on the ending you play out. In Dishonored, your actions — and the amount of chaos they cause — directly effects the game play. One dishonorable action forces another and another until you are faced with a tragic ending. Of course, while our own lives and careers will hopefully never have the amount of tragedy faced in the game, it is an important reminder that our actions — all our actions — have both good and bad consequences. We can’t escape our actions. Sure we can apologize and make what amends we can, but we can never truly erase them from the memories of those around us.

Consider your actions and the consequences they entail. Make sure the “ending” of your career is the best one possible. Sure, it can be hard to decide the best action sometimes, but in simply taking the time to think about it, you are further ahead than most.

Video games can be seen by some as a waste of time, energy and attention, but they need not be. There are many lessons about life and career to be learned there, if you take a moment to think about it. Sure, games can be amazing entertainment, but they can also teach us much more. If you listen carefully, you just might hear the “hero theme” at the end of your career adventure.


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